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Gender Inequality and the Olympics

by Delanee Ensley

The Olympics have made some major headlines this summer, but not for the right reasons.

Excitement was high at the beginning of the summer with the promise of the Olympic games. The event that was supposed to take place in 2020 took a back seat amid the COVID-19 pandemic. However, with the world getting back to some semblance of normal, the Olympics are back this year with exciting athletics but even scarier gender inequalities.

Workplace discrimination and motherhood tend to go hand-in-hand, and this issue goes beyond the four walls of a cubicle. Many current Olympians are mothers, and they had to fight to have their needs met and their voices heard. Mandy Bujold is an 11-time flyweight champion from Canada who competed in the 2016 Olympics and became a mother in 2018. Bujold took time off from competing for her maternity leave, but the fight to save her career began shortly after. The International Olympics Committee (IOC) requires all athletes to compete in three different preliminary events for their sport, and those scores determine if they are qualified to compete as an Olympian. Instead of competing in those required events, Bujold decided to take maternity leave in order to spend time with her newborn daughter, and she faced disqualification from the Olympic team.

“I’m being penalized because I took this time off to have Kate — even though my entire career I’ve been at that level,” said Mandy Bujold, as stated on her website.

Instead of listening to the IOC, Bujold decided to fight back. In the end, her fight paid off. Bujold’s battle created a space for pregnant and postpartum Olympians to be accommodated during the qualification period and allowed them to let their rankings speak for themselves. However, Mandy Bujold’s crusade is not the only one worth fighting for.

The Tokyo Olympics have been dubbed the most gender-inclusive Olympics to date. The sad fact, however, is that equality has not been reached. In fact, we’re far from it. Forty-nine percent of the Olympic games this year involved female athletes. The Olympics added mixed-gender events such as shooting and weightlifting, but that hardly makes up for the overwhelming gender inequality within the IOC. The IOC is dominated by men and always has been. Only 37.5% of the committee members are female, and of that percent, only a third occupy executive positions. The other bombshell is that the IOC has never had a female president.

The Olympics are events that excite the world, even more so now in a time where COVID-19 is still looming over our heads. However, the world needs to take into account the lack of gender equality and ways we can fix the injustice of it. The truth becomes, how do we have a gender-inclusive Olympics when the IOC isn’t even gender-inclusive?

1 Comment

Abigayle Berg
Abigayle Berg
Aug 12, 2021

Love this piece so much! Very well written!!

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